The Trimorphs:

The next book in the series, the last book, is called the trimorphs.

Here is a small extract from the beginning of the draft book:

 

RAVEN GLARED AT her friends.  “Why should you go to Kwaide?  I am older than you two.  I should be the one to go.  Or at least, I should go with you.”

Temar nodded.  “I know.  You could, if it weren’t for that silly law, the one that says you can’t leave Xiantha for long periods until you are fourteen.”

Raven blew out a sigh.  “I wish I weren’t the heir to a dumb planet.  You two get to have all the fun!”

Temar’s sister, Ashuaia, looked hurt.  “We don’t, Raven!  You are the one who gets to lord it over us all every time any of the panchromes come to see your father.”

“Oh sure!”  Raven put her hands on her hips and gave a sarcastic nod.  “Nothing so much fun as sitting around listening to a bunch of old people prosing on about right, and good, and how to run the planet.”

Temar frowned.  “You can hardly call your father old.   First Six must be ... what ... around thirty now?”

“Well that’s not young anymore, is it?”

“I guess.  But he doesn’t prose on, either.  You aren’t being fair to him, Raven.  He is forever taking us on trips all over the planet.  And he knows how to fight really well, too.  Like Bennel and Tallen do.”

The dark-haired girl was still looking mutinous.  “He ought to let me go with you to Kwaide.  I want to go into Maestra Cimma’s advanced combat class too!  I don’t see why I can’t go.  I will be fourteen in a couple of months - why can’t they let me go with you now?”

The other girl gave her a sympathetic hug.  “I wish you could come too, Raven.  It would be much more fun with you there.”  She gave a sideways glance at the boy standing beside them.  “Brothers always take the fun out of everything.”

Temar stiffened. “They do not!”   He was very conscious of his extra year and a half of life, and although he himself could behave quite rashly at times considered that it gave him every right to watch over his sister carefully, and treat her to his opinion of her every move.

Raven grinned, and her face reverted to its usual sunny self.  She hugged the slim girl back.  “I know, Ash,” she said.  “It must be hard to be the youngest of us.  After all, you are only eleven.”

Ashuaia straightened up, and flicked her hair back.  “What is wrong with being eleven?  I would be old enough to get married, on Cesis.”

“Yes, well.  Cesis, you know.”  Temar sounded disparaging.  “They don’t even have colours over there.”

“You can’t talk!  You are only a septachrome!”

“Says who, madam pentachrome?”

“That’s more than Raven, and she is MUCH older than I am.”

Raven giggled.  “I am getting on for three years older than you, Ash.  —And I can’t help my temper, can I?  It came from my mother.  All Valhai Diva’s children have inherited it.  It makes progressing in colour very hard.”

Temar nodded again.  “Sanjai says she was the most magnificent woman he had ever set eyes on.  He says her eyes shone like diamonds and she was a better warrior than most men.”

Raven stamped her foot.  “She isn’t dead, Tem!  Don’t speak of her as if she is.”
He raised his hands in apology.  “Sorry.  But it isn’t as if she comes here often.  And having a ball of energy for a mother is ... well ... a bit ... strange.”

Ashuaia caught the slight slump of Raven’s shoulders and defended her friend staunchly.  “Valhai Diva is still magnificent.  More than before, really.  It is just that time passes at a different rate for the morphics, and she can’t come over as often as she would like.  You know she comes whenever she can, Temmy.  Why can’t you keep your big mouth shut?”

“Why can’t you?” he flashed back.  “And don’t speak like that to your elders and betters.”

She couldn’t let that pass, and threw herself at her brother.  By a fluke, she caught him off balance, and they were rolling around crushing the carpet of mellowbells by the Emerald Lake when they were interrupted by the approach of a fourth person.

Six stared down at the brawling brother and sister, and felt a sudden shaft of loss so harsh that it made him blink.  It took him a moment to place such an unusual feeling, and when he did, it made him feel even worse.  He had scuffled with Diva in the mellowbells, near here, when the magsled had come to take them to see their newly-born children.  The sight of Ashuaia and Temar scrapping together, mixed with the sweet smell of the mellowbells, had brought that scene back from the depths of his memory.

Six felt such an unexpected shock of emotion that he paused for a second, and closed his eyes momentarily.  How could you feel so much, so many years later?  He forced himself to breathe in slowly, and let the image go, regretfully, back where it belonged, back into the past.  He smiled down at Grace and Ledin’s children, and put an arm around his own daughter’s shoulders.

“A serious disagreement?” he inquired.

Tem and Ash scrambled to their feet, both looking embarrassed.

“Oh, you know, Valhai Six,” mumbled Temar.  “Err ... sisters!”

“Yes.”  Six thought back to his own early days, on Kwaide.  “I do know.”  Though that memory wasn’t as pleasant as it should have been either, and he quickly brought his attention back to the present.  “Well, I have some good news.  Cimma has petitioned the panchromes of Xiantha, and they have agreed to make an exception, and let Raven go with you two this time on your summer visit to Kwaide, since she has nearly reached their age of majority.”

Raven felt a shiver of anticipation travel all the way down her spine, and then all the way back up again.      Her father didn’t seem to have noticed, however, because he was going on. 

“Cimma feels that Raven really needs to get some serious combat practice before her majority next year, and she has convinced the elders that sparring with the few of us who have a reasonable level of competence here on Xiantha just isn’t enough.”

Raven decided to take Cimma a gift when she went.

Six went on, “Although I have only agreed on the condition that you are all three accompanied by either Bennel or Tallen.  I can’t go myself, because I have the university exams to oversee.”

This was greeted with a general groan. 

“It is a condition,” went on Six, “and non-negotiable.  I think Tallen would be the better choice, since Bennel will want to be here for Sanjai’s dissertation.  After all, it will be one of the first doctorates to be granted by the University of Xiantha.”
Raven pursed her lips.  Getting a doctorate seemed a very dry and dusty achievement to her.   Still, if they had to have a bodyguard, she would rather it were Tallen.  Bennel was that much older, and Tallen, although only six years younger than her father, could generally be relied upon to know all the most interesting things to do anywhere. 

“We will be happy to have Tallen along,” she told her father.  “How long are we to stay?”

“Cimma suggests three months.  She says it will take at least as long as that to get all three of you up to scratch in combat training.  I will speak to Tallen about it and see if he is willing to go with you.”

“Why shouldn’t he be?”  Raven’s eyes sparked.

Six grinned.  “It might be beneath his dignity, chaperoning grubby schoolchildren.”

“We are not grubby,” She flushed red.

Six couldn’t resist teasing her.  “We must see what he says.  If Tallen will not go with you then I am afraid Raven, at least, must stay here with me.”

“He couldn’t.  He wouldn’t!”

Ashuaia and Temar looked at each other.  “And Mum?” asked Temar.  “Does she know we are going to be away for three whole months?”

A worried line had appeared on Ash’s face.  “Three m-months?  That is an awfully long time.  We have only gone for t-two w-weeks up until now.”  She wasn’t looking quite so keen on the trip now.

Raven was horrified. “Ash! You can’t be thinking of backing out!  You will love it there.”

“Y-yes.  But it is a long time to be away from Mum and Dad, that’s all.”

“Bah!  You won’t even notice they aren’t there.  There will be so much to do.”

Six raised one eyebrow, appreciating the implication of how much his daughter would miss him.  “Thank you, Raven.”

She didn’t notice.  “What with the combat training, excursions up into the mountains beyond the scarred crag, and to Rexel.  And we might even get to see Benefice ...”

“No!”  Six’s tone was so sharp that they all looked at him in surprise.  “—I don’t want you to visit Benefice.”

“Why not?”

“You will stay out of the Elder’s territory, Raven.  Is that clear?”

“You might at least tell us why.  Cimma told Ash they might go this time.  She said that it was becoming quite common to visit Old Kwaide.”

“Not for you.  You are not to go.”  Six looked down at the trampled flowers around his feet.  “There are reasons why ... it wouldn’t be a good idea.”  He wondered if he should go into more detail, then decided that it was unnecessary to submit them to a lecture about things which they would only regard as old history.  He thought it unlikely that the opportunity would arise, in any case.  He decided to have a word with Ledin about it, as well as Tallen.  That would be enough to ensure there was no question of visits to Benefice.  He became aware of a small twinge of uneasiness, but forced himself to ignore it.  His daughter would be protected by all of Cimma’s students and teachers, as well as the rest of free Kwaide.  What could possibly happen to her, surrounded by determined and extremely well-trained fighters?

Raven flushed again, but knew better than to go on with the conversation.  Six rarely put his foot down about anything, but when he did, it tended to be obstinately immovable.  She turned to Temar, and a spark of understanding shot between them.   Ash might not be keen to go against Six’s wishes, but Tem’s innate sense of adventure could almost always be relied upon.

 

TALLEN LOOKED AT Six.  “Three months!”

“Yes.  I am sorry.  I know you were planning to visit the Namuri clan on Coriolis for a few weeks, but I was hoping you could put it off.  Was the visit very important?”

Tallen examined Six’s face.  The Kwaidian seemed worried.  “Not at all,” he said mendaciously.  “—You think they may be in danger?”

Six pulled a face.  “Not really, no.  I can’t think that anything could possibly happen to them on New Kwaide.  I ... I am just a little uneasy about this visit.  I know it will do Raven the world of good, and that she really does need to broaden her combat skills before she becomes the new head of Coriolis, but ...”

“... Tartalus?”

“Ledin tells me he rarely visits Old Kwaide now, so there should be no danger.  Yet this will be the first time Raven has left the safety of Xiantha, and I can’t help but feel uneasy.”

Tallen raised one eyebrow.  “She is nearly fourteen.  You were that age when you became an apprentice on Valhai.”

Six looked sheepish.  “I know.  I shouldn’t be trying to mollycoddle her, should I?  It is just ... sometimes she reminds me too much ...”

Tallen stared into the distance, understanding.  “—She is very like her mother.  She inherited Diva’s temper, her fearlessness ...”

“—And her daring.  That is what worries me.”

“If I go, will you feel easy?”

Six nodded.  “I know you would protect her.”

“With my life.”  The Namuri’s tone was proud.

“If you go with her, I must let her go.”

“Then I shall go. You cannot keep her safely close any longer.  Next year she will become the leader of a different planet.  It is time for you to let go.”

“You are right, but the years have gone by so fast.  Ever since Diva—” he gave a faint sigh, “—changed ... time has seemed to slip by me, Tallen.  I look at myself in the mirror now and I don’t even recognize the person I see.”

Tallen gave a grunt.  “You are not old.”

“I feel it.  Something inside me was frozen into place the day Diva became a firemorph, and the rest of me has just been running automatically since then.”

The Namuri realized that this was the first time in years that Six had spoken of such things to him.  “Valhai Diva is not an easy person to forget.”

“I shall never, ever forget her.  Even after all these years ...  It is still a physical pain to realize that she is no longer a person.  I wake up every morning and I still reach over to touch her, only to find ...” Six suddenly became aware of the deep pity in the Namuri’s eyes, and stopped.  He cleared his throat.  “But she still lives as a firemorph.  I can see her, talk to her.  It is enough. It must be enough.”

Privately Tallen wondered if it might have been better if Valhai Diva had died completely.  Six would have been forced to reinvent his own life if she had.  This way they were both locked into the past, their relationship paralyzed in time.  He knew that Valhai Six had not so much as looked at another woman in all the years since that fateful day, dedicating all his time to bringing up Raven and the rest of the children, and developing the new university of Xiantha, but the strain of such a strange life had left its mark through the lines which were appearing on his face.

Six changed the subject, feeling that he had already said far too much.  “Thank you.  I appreciate your accompanying them.”

“I shall put myself back in combat training as well.  It will do me good.  I need a refresher course.”

“You and Bennel are the best fighters I know.  Cimma won’t have any classes advanced enough for you.”

“It will be a great pleasure to see Maestra Cimma again.  How is she?”

“Grace says that she is refusing to admit her age.  She rules the combat school with a rod of iron, and all her staff absolutely adore her.”

“She herself will have given up combat practice, I suppose?”

“Not she! She still trains, even though that injury she sustained on Valhai slowed her down considerably, and over the years she has become arthritic.  Grace tells me that she still insists on combat practice three times a week.  She swears she will go out with a knife in her hand, however much it might hurt to hold it.”

“She was very kind to my sister and I when you took us to Kwaide that first time.  I shall never forget.”

“She is an admirable lady.”

Tallen inclined his head.  “She is.  It will be a pleasure to renew our acquaintance.”

“If you have any trouble while you are there, Ledin will be close by.  He has promised to keep an eye on all of you.”

Tallen bristled up.  “Nobody is needed to keep an eye on a Namuri,” he said firmly.  “We can take care of ourselves.”

Six remembered the Namuri pride, and backtracked hastily.  “I meant,” he said, “that he will be at your disposal should you need to evacuate at any time.”

“Oh, I see.  That is a different matter.”  Tallen considered.  “That will be acceptable.”

Six burst out laughing, much to Tallen’s disgust.